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Large Louisville nonprofit expanding services in Kentucky

By John Renfrow

One of Louisville's largest nonprofit organizations is expanding a successful program in Louisville to an underserved part of Kentucky.

Freedom House is a Volunteers of America Mid-States program that provides addiction recovery treatment and care to pregnant and parenting mothers in their efforts to overcome substance abuse disorder.

After a $150,000 contribution from Aetna Better Health of Kentucky, a CVS Health company, VOA recently began construction on a 16-bed facility in Clay County in southeastern Kentucky, making it the first program of its kind in the region, and the first of its kind in the state outside of Louisville. The organization hopes to serve 60 women in its first year.

The Aetna gift is critical to the funding of comprehensive services and care that pregnant/parenting mothers will receive at Freedom House. The plan includes individual and group therapy, parenting support, prenatal health care, as well as classes and training in life skills and preparation for entering the job market.

"At Volunteers of America, we follow the need. This beautiful part of our state has struggled with [a substance abuse] epidemic and we are eager to provide long-overdue care," Jennifer Hancock, president and CEO of VOA Mid-States, said in a news release.

The commonwealth of Kentucky also has contributed a $1 million grant to the program.

Recently, Freedom House welcomed its 200th baby born in the program in Louisville, which has 40 beds for women here. With a two-generation recovery program, this has the capacity to help save Kentucky taxpayers money down the road.

According to the release, babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome cost taxpayers in the state $100,000 on average. Out-of-home placements for children can also be expensive, so unifying a family at Freedom House just makes sense.

"This is a great way to bridge an urban-rural divide," said Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers in an interview, "not just in this area, but other areas. Let's talk about health care, let's talk about education, let's talk about job opportunities. It's that ability to start making those connections to bridge that divide, and this is an example of how we can. It's a mission well beyond the geographic confines."

Hancock told Business First in an interview that the program's physical space should be complete before Thanksgiving. The new space will bring 20 jobs to the area. The facility's projected cost is $725,000.

Aetna's investment in the program hits home for CEO Jonathan Copley, who has seen these problems first-hand.

"As a rural Kentucky native and leader of Aetna's Kentucky Medicaid plan, I am personally committed to helping these women get the comprehensive treatment they need closer to home. Back in 2017, I was proud that Aetna provided Narcan kits to first responders in rural Kentucky. This is another demonstration to fighting the opioid epidemic in a practical way," Copley said in the release.

The residential treatment center will be just outside of Manchester, Ky, but Hancock said it's a regional program and open to nearby residents. She added that plans call for expansion of services there — transitional housing for women graduating from the program, for example.

Volunteers of America was recently recognized as one of seven best providers in the nation by the American Society of Addiction Medicine and received a goal seal of approval, the only recipient in the state.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Stivers added.

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